Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch

This video from the USA says about itself:

Only One Judge Ruled Against Freezing Truck Driver… Trump’s.

23 March 2017

Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch never met a corporate overlord he didn’t worship. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, discuss.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN), as he said himself during Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday, used to have “a career in identifying absurdity” as a humorist and one of SNL’s original writers.

Ironically, his early career has carried over rather too well to policy making, as he demonstrated while grilling Gorsuch about his ruling in the so-called “Frozen Trucker case.”

The case at hand is that of Alphonse Maddin, a truck driver for TransAm. The brakes on Maddin’s trailer locked up on a subzero January night, and he called for help from TransAm’s road service. They told him to wait, and he did — for two hours, despite discovering that the heat in his truck cab was broken. When he was woken by a phone call, he had a numb torso and couldn’t feel his feet.

“If you fall asleep waiting in 14 below zero weather, you can freeze to death. You can die,” Franken explained in his retelling of the case.”

Read more here.

By John Burton in the USA:

Who is Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch?

24 March 2017

Over the last four days, the Senate Judiciary Committee conducted a charade of a hearing for Neil M. Gorsuch, president Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the 2016 death of arch-reactionary Antonin Scalia.

While more polished, tactful and amiable than the crass and bullying Scalia, Gorsuch is expected to vote along the same reactionary lines. Gorsuch will restore the dominant right-wing bloc that, when joined by the conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, over the last decade destroyed the Voting Rights Act, opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate campaign contributions, empowered corporate bosses to impose their religious views and practices on employees, dismantled environmental protections, stripped workers and consumers of their rights to file lawsuits, stripped search-and-seizure protections, and expanded immunity for police murders and other official misconduct, among other things.

As a private lawyer, Gorsuch represented Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz, a major contributor to archconservative groups including the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. In 2006 Anschultz intervened at the White House to advocate that President George W. Bush nominate Gorsuch to a vacancy on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah.

The Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, an organization dedicated to the right-wing takeover of the United States judiciary, handpicked Gorsuch for Trump. Disclosing how these forces operate out of the public eye, Gorsuch acknowledged that he found out about Trump’s nomination directly from Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society executive vice president widely considered a major right-wing kingmaker.

Gorsuch is relatively young at 49—a major asset for a lifetime appointment—with solid educational and legal credentials, including a coveted Supreme Court clerkship split between Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. More importantly, Gorsuch has proven time and again that he will support dismantling all restraints on corporate looting as well as the expansion of governmental power to suppress the social explosions that will inevitably result.

Writing in 2005 for the conservative National Review, Gorsuch denounced “American liberals,” as “addicted to the courtroom,” for “effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education.”

The hearings opened Monday, with Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican from Iowa, praising Gorsuch as “the gold standard,” labeling any attempt to probe his right-wing views as “political posturing and grandstanding.”

Virtually every Democrat who spoke during the hearing pointed out the hypocrisy after the Republicans refused to consider former president Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch was introduced to the Judiciary Committee in glowing terms by both senators from his home state of Colorado, including Democrat Michael Bennet. …

Gorsuch’s prepared opening remarks consisted solely of generalities and homilies, interlaced with occasional strained and corny attempts at humor. He studiously avoided any substance that would tend to confirm how he intends to vote on controversial issues he is likely to confront as a justice.

During two days of questioning Tuesday and Wednesday, Gorsuch refused to reveal his views on any substantive issues, denying that he had been asked to submit to any “litmus test.”

“I would tell you that Roe vs. Wade, decided in 1973, is the precedent of the United States Supreme Court,” Gorsuch said when asked about a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, adding, “all of the other factors that go into analyzing precedent have to be considered,” a hint that Gorsuch would be open to overturning the ruling.

The only new revelations raised during the four-day hearing arise from newly uncovered emails that demonstrate how, during his seven-month stint with the Department of Justice in 2005 and 2006, Gorsuch urged then-president George W. Bush to issue an unprecedented “signing statement” that essentially repudiated the Detainee Treatment Act, a law sponsored by Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war, that barred US agencies from inflicting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on people detained anywhere in the world.

When pressed on the documents by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, Gorsuch shifted responsibility to others, claiming that he was only their lawyer, not a policy maker. At the same time, Gorsuch refused to state whether he viewed torture techniques such as waterboarding and prolonged sleep deprivation to be illegal.

Later in the hearings, Feinstein asked Gorsuch about a memo where he scribbled “yes” next to the question whether CIA torture had yielded valuable information, knowing from her own Senate investigation that none was obtained.

“I was a lawyer. My job was as an advocate, and we were dealing with detainee litigation. That was my job,” Gorsuch responded.

Similarly, Feinstein pressed Gorsuch whether he actually believes the comments he wrote for Alberto Gonzales, Bush’s attorney general, asserting that Congress lacked authority to require federal agents to always obtain warrants for national security surveillance. “Goodness no, Senator, and I didn’t believe it at the time,” Judge Gorsuch replied, describing himself as only “a speechwriter,” and “the scribe.”

The final day of hearings on Thursday was dedicated to other witnesses, some of whom came to praise Gorsuch as bright, hardworking and fair, and others to condemn his record. Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First pointed out that Gorsuch joined the Bush administration shortly after the sickening images emerged from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dominated by a Republican majority, the Committee will vote on April 3, most likely along party lines, to recommend Gorsuch to the full Senate, where the only suspense is likely to be whether the Democrats stage a meaningless filibuster before rolling over for his confirmation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has pledged to muster the more than 40 Democratic votes needed to block the nomination on the Senate floor under the current rules, on the basis that Gorsuch’s extreme right-wing views are out of the “mainstream.”

Senate Republicans, who control 52 of the 100 Senate seats plus the tiebreaker, can counter a filibuster by changing the rules by majority vote. There are implications to such a maneuver, however, and various media reports cite behind-the-scene negotiations that could affect votes on future judicial nominees or meet the parochial interests of certain senators.

Regardless, there is no reason to believe that Gorsuch will not be confirmed and join the other Supreme Court justices, probably before the current term ends in late June.

The author recommends:

The right-wing record of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch
[2 February 2017]

The CIA torture report and the crisis of legitimacy in the United States
[12 August 2014]

LGBTQ Advocates Horrified By Trump Administration’s Civil Rights Health Pick. “It is going to have a serious, probably devastating impact,” one advocate said: here.

Chilean Pinochet secret policemen convicted for murders

This 2012 Chilean music video is a song about the Pinochet dictatorship murderer Major Alvaro Corbalan Castilla, now convicted.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Chile: 33 Pinochet agents jailed for communist deaths

Friday 24th March 2017

CHILE’S Supreme Court jailed 33 intelligence agents of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship on Wednesday for the 1987 murder of five communist resistance fighters.

In the longest sentences handed down in a human rights case, former National Information Centre chief General Hugo Salas Wenzel and Major Alvaro Corbalan Castilla both received 15 years.

They were already serving time for other crimes.

Another 21 were sentenced to 10 years and the rest to a minimum of five years.

The five victims were members of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front, the military wing of the Communist Party.

They were abducted in revenge for the Front’s kidnapping of an army officer in 1987 and thrown into the sea from a helicopter.

The families of Julian Pena Maltes, Alejandro Pinochet Arenas, Manuel Sepulveda Sanchez, Gonzalo Fuenzalida Navarrete and Julio Munoz Otarola will also receive compensation equivalent to £460,000.

United States, from Andrew Jackson to Donald Trump

Map about ethnic cleansing of Native Americans by President Andrew Jackson

By Tom Mackaman in the USA:

Trump turns to American history

The strange political afterlife of Andrew Jackson

21 March 2017

The White House, led by its fascistic top advisor Stephen K. Bannon, is attempting to cast Donald Trump as the reincarnation of the seventh American president, Andrew Jackson. Trump has hung a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office.

Last Wednesday, Trump visited Jackson’s Tennessee plantation, the Hermitage, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Jackson’s birth. “Inspirational visit, I have to tell you. I’m a fan,” Trump said of Jackson. Speaking in Detroit earlier the same day, the president asserted that “my election was most similar to his.”

As a preliminary matter, Trump’s election more closely parallels that of Jackson’s opponent John Quincy Adams in the election of 1824. Like Trump, Adams lost the popular vote by a wide margin. But Adams gained the White House instead of Jackson after Kentucky Senator Henry Clay threw his support behind the candidate from Massachusetts in a House of Representatives vote on February 9, 1825.

Bannon, a student of Italian fascism who is closely tied to the “white nationalist” far-right, is behind Trump’s embrace of Jackson, who was elected in 1828 and served as president from 1829 to 1837. “[L]ike Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” Bannon said in November after Trump’s victory. Bannon and White House adviser Stephen Miller have reportedly given Trump books to study on the seventh US president.

Such historical comparisons always say much more about the present than they do about the past. The question is, of all presidents, why does the White House seek to drape Trump in the mantle of Andrew Jackson?

Jackson is an important figure, but no one could ever say of him, as Marx did of Lincoln, that he was “one of the rare men who succeed in becoming great without ceasing to be good.” Jackson, unlike Lincoln, was not known to exercise the quality of mercy. While Lincoln commuted more death sentences than all other American presidents combined, Jackson, in his pre-presidential career as a military commander, reveled in carrying out executions of deserting soldiers, Indians, and, in one case, two British civilians.

Jefferson, who knew Jackson, called him “a dangerous man” who was “most unfit” to be president, pointing in particular to his disregard for the law and his notoriously violent temper. “He could never speak on account of the rashness of his feelings,” Jefferson said of Jackson. “I have seen him attempt it repeatedly, and as often choke with rage.” …

Jackson took office in 1829 after the end of the “Era of Good Feelings,” a period falling roughly between the War of 1812 and the end of the James Monroe administration in 1825. This was an era of profound social and economic change, marked by such economic and industrial achievements as the construction of the Cumberland Pike and the Erie Canal. The growing complexity of the American economy brought about significant changes in social relations, including closer links between the agricultural economies and market towns, increasing social differentiation, and the growing power of Northern industry.

Jackson was a reactionary figure whose modus vivendi depended on burying, as much as possible, the powerful contradictions building up during this period—especially those having to do with slavery—which would ultimately find resolution in the Civil War.

Jackson presented himself as a “man of the people.” However, parties and politicians must be assessed not by what they say about themselves, but by what they objectively represent.

His Democratic Party emerged out of the period of Republican domination stretching through the administrations of the Virginia Dynasty of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. The Democrats were a political union of the Southern slaveholding aristocracy, sections of American capitalism associated with state-level banking and the lucrative cotton trade, and corrupt big city political machines such as New York’s Tammany Hall that were emerging in the North. It was, in other words, a party of the most reactionary forces in American society.

The political art of the early Democrats consisted in their ability to hide the controversy over slavery behind a veil of nationalism, racism and populist demagogy, and thereby subordinate many farmers and workers of the North to a reactionary program largely dictated by the Southern planter class, of which Jackson was an extremely wealthy member.

The controversy over slavery, which first erupted with the debate over whether Missouri would be admitted as a slave state in 1819, was temporarily resolved through national expansionism, which the Democratic Party motivated ideologically with the concept of “Manifest Destiny.” It asserted the right, even sacred duty, of Americans to possess all the lands of North America, whether they were inhabited by Indians or claimed by Britain or Mexico.

The dispute over who would inherit the lands of the West—the sons of the slaveowners or the sons of the yeoman farmers of the North—could be thus delayed. Yet in the main, territorial expansion was designed to benefit the Southern planter class. This began under Jackson with the appropriation of the fertile lands of the southeast in Georgia, Alabama and Florida, taken from the so-called Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeast—the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminoles—in a forced exodus to Oklahoma remembered as “the Trail of Tears.” In executing this policy, which today would be called “ethnic cleansing,” Jackson notoriously defied a Supreme Court injunction.

Then there was Jackson’s populist demagogy in the so-called “Bank Wars” against the re-chartering of the Bank of the United States. Jackson and the Democrats were not opponents of finance in general, but were aligned with state-level banks and favored decentralized and inflationary monetary policies.

Jackson’s phony anti-bank politics provided a false explanation for the first major financial crisis in US history, the Panic of 1819, which arrived simultaneously with the crisis over Missouri. Agriculture in the North had been given a great push forward by the Napoleonic Wars, increasing the prices of American food crops. This in turn drove up the price of land, feeding a speculative frenzy that burst with the Panic of 1819.

Thousands of banks collapsed, and many tens of thousands of overextended farmers and businessmen were ruined. The mysteriously powerful calamity, which hit like a force of nature, was little understood. The trauma even triggered the religious fervor that “burnt over” the rural areas in the 1820s, known as the Second Great Awakening.

Finally, Jackson and the early Democrats had to contend with the first stirrings of the working class. In the 1820s, together with the emergence of the slavery issue and the upheaval wrought by the panics of 1819 and 1825, the old guild system, by which apprentices learned a trade, advanced to the status of journeymen and hoped to one day become masters, collapsed.

Ancient methods and rites of labor vanished. Masters no longer worked side-by-side with journeymen and apprentices. They became rich employers of wage-earners, joined by growing streams of impoverished immigrants. The American Revolution’s promise of equality, for which the urban artisans had fought in organization such as the Sons of Liberty, allying with Jefferson and Madison against Hamilton and Adams, seemed to have been betrayed.

In the 1820s, the beginning of “the Age of Jackson,” the first strikes and trade unions appeared in the cities. Then, in the late 1820s, came the sudden emergence of dozens of local political parties, generally taking the name Workingmen’s Party. The largest appeared in the two biggest cities, New York and Philadelphia, where they won broad support among workers and challenged the new Democratic Party for political control. [1]

In response, the northern Democrats, led by Jackson’s vice president and successor, Martin Van Buren of New York, attempted to dissolve the class issue into a vague anti-elitist and, for the first time in US history, racist politics. The northern Democrats acted through the new species of career politician, the sprawling “Penny press,” made possible by developments in printing technology, and the most popular form of entertainment of the day, blackface minstrelsy, which lampooned Whigs, abolitionists, free blacks and slaves.

Advertisement for blackface minstrels, 1843

The plausibility of the Democratic Party ideology was aided by the two-party system itself. Factory owners, seeking tariff protection from British competition and the promotion of infrastructure, oriented to the Whigs. Small numbers of free blacks and abolitionists repulsed by the Democratic Party’s shameless racism joined them.

This explains a striking paradox of American history. Just as the right to vote was extended in the North to all white men, without property qualifications—proudly championed by Jackson and the Democrats—it was denied or even stripped away from free black men. In many northern states, including Pennsylvania, African American men did not earn the right to vote until after the Civil War. So savage was the Democratic Party’s racism, blacks were denied the right even to settle in entire states, Illinois and Iowa included. [2]

The effectiveness of this politics made the Democratic Party the stronger of the two antebellum parties until the late 1850s, with the Democrats generally controlling the presidency, the legislature and the Supreme Court, and dominating most state governments, South and North. Jackson was a nationalist whose support for slavery did not stop him from opposing South Carolina in the nullification crisis of 1832, in which the planter elite of that state threatened secession rather than accept a tariff bill designed to support northern manufactures. Jackson’s threats to use military force against the state prevented—or rather, delayed—its attempted secession.

Bannon is not unique in trying to appropriate Jackson’s legacy. Until recently, Jackson was held up by American liberals as an icon, a characterization most famously put forth by historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in his enormously influential Age of Jackson, which appeared in 1945. Schlesinger presented Jackson as a tribune of the people, and his Democratic Party as the party of “the common man.”

Like Bannon today, Schlesinger had political motivations. During the years the author researched and wrote Age of Jackson, Roosevelt’s Democratic Party shifted to the right, abandoning the New Deal and preparing to purge from its ranks left elements in and around the Communist Party, with which it had been allied.

The Harvard historian wrote about Jackson and the Democratic Party of the 1820s and 1830s in order to present the mid-20th century Democrats—the party that dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, interned the Japanese and suppressed the strike wave of the 1930s and 1940s—as a “peoples’ party.”

At about the same time the Age of Jackson appeared, the Democratic Party spearheaded the anti-Communist purges of the 1940s and 1950s, which began in the trade unions and later spread to Hollywood and academia. In essence, the attack was not against individuals, but against the idea, which had gained wide acceptance during the Great Depression, that there existed a class struggle. The consequences of the anti-socialist witchhunt for American intellectual and cultural life have been incalculable.

Schlesinger’s hagiography of Jackson played its role in all of this. The Harvard historian, a personal friend and advisor to John Kennedy, was a major intellectual representative of what has been called “liberal anti-communism.” Soon after the Age of Jackson, beginning in the late 1940s, state Democratic Party organizations began to hold “Jefferson-Jackson” fundraising dinners. …

However, the president and his political guru need only follow the history lesson a few years further past the Age of Jackson to understand Jacksonian politics’ total and catastrophic failure. The nationalism of “Jacksonian democracy” may have delayed the eruption of the colossal contradictions of the antebellum, but it did not prevent it.


[1] Bruce Laurie, Artisans into Workers, Labor in Nineteenth-Century America. University of Illinois Press, 1997.

[2] Leon Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860, University of Chicago Press, 1965.

LOOKS LIKE THE SECRET SERVICE CAN’T AFFORD TRUMP The agency tasked with protecting the president asked for an additional $60 million, about $27 million of which was to go to securing Trump Tower. The Office of Management and Budget said no. [HuffPost]